Ideas for new experimental EA projects you could fund!

post by Robert_Wiblin · 2014-12-02T02:47:04.545Z · EA · GW · Legacy · 16 comments

A while ago there was a thread about ideas for new projects for large EA funders to back. We had a similar email thread here at the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA) and the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) at Oxford, about 'blue sky funding opportunities'. As the Christmas giving season approaches, I thought I would mention a few of my favourites. I am happy to field questions about the details in the comments section, inasmuch as I know them.

1. Put money in an EA 'venture' fund that publicly announces it is seeking to fund new projects with particular characteristics (e.g. scaling a demonstrated anti-poverty intervention). Use this 'money on the table' to encourage more entrepreneurs to come forward with early-stage business plans. Otherwise help to connect donors with founders. More or less the same idea is mentioned here.

2. Offer prizes for people who have achieved awesome things to both help and encourage them to continue achieving awesome things.

3. Hire a full or part-time Personal Assistant for Prof Nick Bostrom, so he can spend as much time as possible doing follow-up research for his popular book, Superintelligence. This would also indirectly free up staff time for project managers and researchers in the rest of FHI.

4. Fund a founding employee for 'CEA USA'. This person would:

The board would probably approve a recruitment process to try to find someone suitable for this position if funds were available.

5. Fund a professional fundraiser to raise money for CEA/FHI/CSER/FLI. We have not yet found a good candidate for this, but if we were offering closer to market wages (£40-60,000p.a.) we might find someone suitable to bring us expertise fundraising from major donors.


Possible individual projects you could already fund by giving to CEA

The following you could fund by giving to CEA. Message me if you are interested, so I can send you more information on how much we would need to raise to press ahead with these projects.

1. We are raising money to help market both William MacAskill's book Doing Good Better, and Peter Singer's book, The Most Good You Can Do. If funds are available, we will hire a professional book promotion company to do this. Outputs could include, depending on the amount of money raised: websites for the books; launch events; more media appearances booked; more opportunities to write op-eds based on the books' content; articles placed in newspapers connecting the books to current events; potentially even a promotional video.

2. CEA could hire a contractor to work on a set of podcasts about effective altruism. If we liked them, we could then produce more.

3. Test out mainstream pamphleting about effective altruism to see how many, e.g. Giving What We Can members, this can create.

4. Giving What We Can now has almost 700 members. The majority of our resources go towards attracting new members, as we see this as the most valuable use of time. Some of the work of our Director of Community goes towards deepening engagement with existing members. However, we could now usefully dedicate the Director of Community to just constantly talk to existing members - splitting out the role of talking to potential new members. What would this Director of Community do?

I also think that merely speaking regularly with someone from Giving What We Can would make members more likely to stick with the pledge long term.

If it were me, I would rather fund new member recruitment over the above. However, if I were more skeptical about how much new members would give, and how long they will naturally stick with the pledge, I could prefer to fund the above. I think we will definitely want someone to take on this role full time, sooner or later.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Peter Wildeford (Peter_Hurford) · 2014-12-04T17:53:17.457Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Just wanted to mention that reading this has made me change my donation plans -- instead of donating directly, I'm going to try to use my money for donation matching and to seed prizes for EA activities / ventures that I'd like to see. I was already leaning this way, but this post made me make it official.

I'd be happy to collaborate with other people who are similarly interested in building up donation matching pools and/or seed prizes.

comment by Giles · 2014-12-02T22:44:07.795Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The idea of regularly talking to GWWC members makes me want to plug the EA Buddy System. The goals are much the same, it's just decentralized and volunteer-based. Is it worth coordinating with GWWC on this, e.g. coming up with a set of suggestions that EA buddies can talk about with GWWC members?

Replies from: Robert_Wiblin
comment by Robert_Wiblin · 2014-12-03T01:13:59.282Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I like the EA Buddy system and would be happy to see it promoted to GWWC members in some form, but I feel it's slightly different from what we are going for here.

Many GWWC members don't identify as 'EAs' and want to be talked to about GWWC issues specifically by someone highly knowledgable.

I expect someone who works on this every day to become very skilled at having these conversations.

Replies from: Giles
comment by Giles · 2014-12-03T02:49:49.204Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

These are good points.

comment by JoshYou · 2014-12-03T00:40:54.026Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hire a full or part-time Personal Assistant for Prof Nick Bostrom

Is there a reason this couldn't be done with FHI funding? If FHI believed that this was the best use of an additional [however much it takes to hire an assistant], then an unrestricted donation of that amount would make it happen. If not, it's much less clear that this would be a good idea.

Replies from: Robert_Wiblin
comment by Robert_Wiblin · 2014-12-03T00:48:10.677Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

It could probably be done through FHI funding, but it would be considerably more expensive and might be blocked by the university.

Replies from: Peter_Hurford
comment by Peter Wildeford (Peter_Hurford) · 2014-12-03T00:55:49.792Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Why is that?

Replies from: Robert_Wiblin
comment by Robert_Wiblin · 2014-12-03T01:05:49.982Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The university charges major overhead on all salaries (50-100%). It has regulations about who can get PAs, how much time they get, what they can do, how much they must be paid. We are talking about an 800 year old institution here.

Replies from: Benjamin_Todd
comment by Benjamin_Todd · 2014-12-03T18:03:14.043Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Also, the FHI mainly focuses on raising academic grants, and it's hard to use these to cover a PA.

comment by GreyArea · 2014-12-02T23:14:05.776Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Are there currently any posters/brochures for EA, Givewell, GWWC etc.?

Edit: thanks guys, glad to know these exist. Will probably print a few to dot around my university.

Replies from: Steph_Crampin, Tom_Ash
comment by Steph_Crampin · 2014-12-03T16:16:58.123Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

There are Giving What We Can ones here:

They are slightly out of date but mostly relevant.

comment by Tom_Ash · 2014-12-03T08:05:38.826Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

There's a .impact project to design ones, with some entries.

comment by Giles · 2014-12-02T22:28:55.155Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

If I read this recent blog post correctly, it sounds like GiveWell are concerned about bumping into the room for more funding ceiling for some of their top charities. Would this be a point against trying to recruit more donors and in favour of encouraging new projects to start up? (or promoting causes that GW doesn't really cover, such as nonhuman animals or xrisk).

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2014-12-05T01:42:13.249Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Has there been A/B testing of the messaging for the book launches? It'd be a huge missed opportunity if, for example, the books hammer on the standard drowning child thought experiment type opportunity cost arguments if an excited altruism perspective turns out to be more effective for getting people to actually take action. (For example, the entire last chapter of Martin Seligman's book Learned Optimism is basically about how being altruistic makes people happier. He analogizes donating to charity and volunteering to "moral jogging"--somewhat unpleasant in the short run but good for your happiness in the long run.)

comment by Peter Wildeford (Peter_Hurford) · 2014-12-04T18:01:43.785Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for taking the time to put this together, Rob. I'm interested in the pamphleting angle, especially as someone who has studied pro-veg pamphleting in length and who is researching it further. I'd be interested in hearing if you have any plans to study EA pamphleting in any amount of depth.